Saturday, March 30, 2013

Resurrexit Sicut Dixit: Risen as He Said

"How is it that I have never realized how swiftly the 40 days of Lent can pass so swiftly?"  This is how I feel this year as Lent closes and Resurrection time begins.  Did you have the same experience?  If you felt that way, have you asked yourself "What was it about this year's Lent that made it seem like six or seven days?"  Surely the happenings in our Church with a resignation of the Roman Pontiff and the election of a new Bishop of Rome became interspersed and distracting although very interesting and informative."

While I list several reason for this year's speed, I do think there is one possible reason, at  least for me.  This year Lent was not focused on me and my problems, my sins.  Rather, during these days even on Good Friday, my attention was directed to one reality: the son of Mary, the Son of God is friend.  Not friend in a general sense but Jesus is my friend, your friend.  And, as the weeks passed, I tried my best to "feel" my prayer as a time when I was sitting with Jesus.  We were talking.  Probably more my voice than his but there was a renew effort to say very little on my part.  It was a time of intense listening.  So during these 40 days of prayer, reading and reflection, my goal was to seek time with my friend.  It was not time spent focused on Jesus as God, somewhere out there in his great universe.  It was time with my divine friend.

Friends have always been an abundance of graces in my life.  How marvelous have the times with these friends been and, hopefully, will be for some additional years.  But it is the kind of friendship with these friends that should be a model for my prayer with Jesus.  Telephone calls to friends and sharing thoughts as well as joys and sorrows should be no different than conversation with Jesus.  Once prayer becomes like this, it is not easy and time passes so swiftly.  Most of us quickly withdraw from conversations with others who are negative, super critical and drained of all hope and excitement -- sure reasons for dragging life.  But how often do we try to be in the presence of or speak with a friend who is uplifting, who listens and who is not afraid to tell it like it is!  This makes the time pass too quickly.

Hopefully you have come to be closer to Jesus as your friend during the days of Lent this year with the help of the thoughts in this blogger's postings.  Don't let go of your efforts to keep Jesus particularly close.  Continue to sit and talk with him.  Continue to strengthen your ability to listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit in your heart as you reflect on Jesus and the stories of the early Church that we will be reading in the Acts of the Apostles during the days of the Easter season as well as the Evangelists' accounts of Jesus and his friends from his days of ministry as a preacher.  Look at him carefully in those stories.  Continue to imagine him sitting next to you and telling you what he thinks about those "life or death" circumstances that make up your life at this time.  Allow him to come to you as he came to the disciples walking in their "life or death" fears on the way to Emmaus. Let he surprise you as he surprised Mary Magdalene.  How much happier we can be if we but listen for voice after we have talked to him hopefully in short and few sentences!!!

Yes, your friend, my friend has risen as he said he would.  Can there be any greater joy for us and our salvation?  Listen, listen.  He is, I pray, speaking to you through one or two of the thoughts in this posting.  

God be with you in this Easter Season.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Evening of the Lord's Supper

For me and, I am certain, for every priest and deacon throughout the world today is indeed the day of the year.  While we celebrate our ordinations on specific but different days of the calendar, we, all of us, mark this day with special prayer and reflection.  This is the day the Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  This is the day we truly mark the cause of our calling from God to serve his people.

But, but, but this is also a very important day for ever Baptized Catholic.  This is the day when, at the final gathering with all of his disciples, this man I call my friend, Jesus during the time he broke bread and drank wine with his closest followers, gave to them and to each of us the remarkable gift that unite us with Jesus himself.  On the Thursday evening, before his trial and condemnation, my friend, your friend. with his disciples gave the gift of the most holy Eucharist. This is the inheritance that was given for each of us from God the Father.

In  your mind's eyes and in your heart gaze for a while at the face of this man I have presented to you in
numerous postings, your friend.  See him sitting at a long table.  See the twelve who really have not idea what an inheritance was being given to them.  And your friend has read a part of the will to you as well as the his beloved apostles.  We remember quite well his words:  "This is my body which will be given up for you" and "This is my blood which will be pour out for you and for many."  Most unusual would it be for a Catholic not to recognize the words of this gift.  And every day all of us have the gift of sharing in the gift of the Eucharist, in eating and drinking the very Body of Christ.

But there is another aspect of the final supper with the apostles we recall, I am sure, but not all of the words that Jesus spoke about this very special gift and obligation.  When the dinner was progress, Jesus, because he was aware of the event the lie ahead, stood up and tied an apron around his waist and proceeded to wash the feet of the Twelve.  That was a practice in the culture of the time for a host to wash the dirt and dust from the feet of his dinner guests.  It was and continues to be a humbling moment.

Well do I recall the very first time I was privileged to be the celebrant of the liturgy on this particular feet.  This event brought to mind the days when I was a Jesuit seminarian (Scholastic) we had a practice during the season of Lent that was encouraged.  Once everyone had completed the prayers before dinner and had taken their seats, one volunteer would actually get on all fours and climb beneath the table and begin to kiss the feet of the eight brother Jesuits seated at the table.  That exercise in humility did not have the impact on me as that first time I was the Holy Thursday celebrant and knelt before twelve very different people:  some with feet gnarled by advanced aging and arthritis, some with carefully applied toe nail painting, some who didn't think of cleaning out beneath their nails, and other with well manicured feet.  It was then that I felt the impact of what Jesus did on the night before he died.  It was then that I realized that he had given me one of the greatest gifts possible for an inheritance.  Neither money nor possessions:  what became so real was that he was teaching me the role of service in the life of priesthood.  It is not a life of pomp and circumstance.  It is not a life of power and glory.  Indeed, it is a life of taking a person's life into my hands, a life that probably has been a journey traveled over many miles of different kinds of roadway.  And each time I begin to wash the feet of anyone on Holy Thursday, I am pulled into an extraordinary awareness of these words of Jesus, my friend, your friend:

Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me..
I have given you a model to follow, 
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

My brothers and sisters, your friend and my friend has not suggested service as something that might be enjoyable or something that you might do to lose some weight or to be an example to others for a special event.  Our brother has told each of us:  You should also do this!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On The Threshold of Resurrection Salvation

Even before we celebrate the actual day of the Last Supper, the Church calls us to consider would be happening on that every special evening of service, the washing of feet, as well as a pitiable evening of group dysfunction and ultimate reaffirmation of intention on Jesus' part.

Read today's gospel story in light of experience, family experience.  We all know of those family gatherings which for one reason or another start off with wonderful greetings among siblings and spouses, children and grandchildren.  Then there is the moment when someone brings to the table a deeply buried disappointment, a bruised ego, or felt rejection by another member of the group or, at times, by the entire group.  We see these scenes depicted in movies or in TV shows.  It is the portrayal of the reality of Original Sin, isn't it?  It is an event, in its beginning that would bring much happiness, satisfaction and pride to parents or grandparents.  It is like one of those instructional dinners we see so often in the TV show Blue Bloods when grandfather, dad as well as children and grandchildren gather to celebrate their pride in being a good, Irish, Catholic family.  Four of the men are officers of the NYPD.  All goes well until one of the family says something or questions the actions of another.  The tensions mount.

The Last Supper is no different.  The Church wants us to see, I believe, that even in good families or groups there always can be the effects of sinfulness if the group is not careful.  Our friend, Jesus, is caught in the middle this time.  What we witness today is how delicate human relations can be even in the group of people who walked and worked with Jesus for some three years.  The Little Company who was so proud of The Way that Jesus had taught them is, like an elegant piece of glass, shattered by one man's personal problems.

The is the gathering of The Company when the members learn that for some reason or another one of them was about to leave the Last Supper to sell their brother, their leader, for a mere pittance -- 30 pieces of silver.  Considered from a merely human perspective, this is the beginning of the end for the one that had done so much for the group.  There must have been the recollection of sad moments for the group:  those moments when one or another of the group demonstrated his human weakness.  Failing to understand who Jesus really is.  Seeking special places of honor next to him in the new kingdom.  Again, these special men were no different than most human beings.

Let us look at our friend in this particular dilemma.  Let us consider how he has confronted the same failures in our lives but at the same times will not fail to look to us and smile with the words "Don't forget:  I truly love you."  Again this is your friend who is bringing to fulfillment the will of his Father.  This is your friend who looks to you in your life to recognize that his passion and death are not his end. They are for all humankind his gift of peace and salvation.  Your friend, my friend:  could there be any greater gift in this life that this love of Jesus, our friend, for each one of us?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday of Holy Week 2013

In my homily on Saturday evening, the Vigil Mass for Palm Sunday, the Holy Spirit took hold of my mind and heart in ways that I had not particularly prepared.  Of course I had to continue my Lenten goal:  get to know this Jesus of the Lenten days and especially of Holy Week as your friend.  He is the friend you can sit and talk to with your cup of coffee or tea.  He is the friend who truly desires to talk with you and to listen to you as well.   Ours truly is the task of learning how to listen to him.

It is important to focus on him this week and not upon our failures, our sins.  Rather all of this Holy Week, especially the days of the Sacred Triduum (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) are truly one experience that we divide because we have 24 hour days.  It is during this week that we should be focused on the reason Jesus endures all the worry and subsequent agony.  We should look upon the Cross not for it brutality to a human being, not upon the nails at torture tools but as instruments of revelation for us.

Throughout these days of this week, focus upon one reality:  see the face of Jesus at every moment that you can and realize that he is looking at you because you are his friend.  He wants so much for each of us to understand what that means, this friendship with the Son of God.

The temptation is to focus on our failure, on Peter's failure, on Judas' failure.  Fr. Roc O'Connor, SJ, of Creighton University, wrote these "betrayals are less important than Jesus' glorification on the cross. For that is when he most truly reveals God in glory!"  How true, how true.  These days and all that happens to our friend Jesus are a revelation of God in glory.

So often when we are witness to another person's suffering, especially the passion and death of Jesus, our friend, we usually attempt to draw attention to ourselves.  It is my sinfulness, my failures, that distract us from the central message of these days, the glory of God.

As we continue the Lenten journey, let's turn our attention to every action of Jesus as a moment when we can look at his face.  Let us see in the face of Jesus when he is tortured by flailing whips the Father's gift to us of such a friend.  It is your friend fulfilling the will of his Father.  It is your friend who is winning salvation for each of us.  Walk with him with this in mind, not your sins or your failures.  Withdraw from focusing on one's self.  Focus on what these days are:  the glorification of your God and your friend, Jesus.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday 2013

In part of Psalm 22, verse 27, not used in the liturgy's Responsorial Psalm, there are words that I have found helpful as we enter the serious days of the Lenten Season.

Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.
May you be of good cheer forever.

Throughout the days of Lent in this Blogger's postings, you have read many times that the days of the journey we have shared together would be an opportunity.  These 40 days offer each of us the time to discover Jesus as friend, close, personal friend.  We have encountered this young preacher in a variety of circumstances.  From the earlier days of this journey we are encouraged to recognize once again that Jesus is indeed no ordinary man.  The Transfiguration presented Jesus with two extraordinary biblical persons, Elijah and Moses.  We read words that God that Father spoke to those with Jesus on that hilltop.  "This is my beloved Son...."  

If Jesus was willing to invite Peter, James and John to be with him for that event, don't you think that there are many moments in your life, if seriously considered, that are signs to you that he wants you to know how much he loves each of us.  They are signs to us that he is always with us.  Now during the days of these next two weeks, we have the opportunity to walk with him.  Moments when we can look directly into his face be it the frightened Jesus in the Garden of Olives, be it the frustrated Jesus when one of his own betrays him, be it the calm Jesus who faces Pilate and the crowd, be it the disappointed Jesus who knows Peter would deny he knew him, be it the face that a woman tries to wipe clean in the bloody climb to Calvary's summit, be it the tortured face seen by all those along the way, be it the encouraging face that promises life in the kingdom of God to the Good Thief and, finally, the pathetic face that utters "Father ..." in different ways from his deathbed, the cross.

Yes, these were the moments of the man you had the opportunity to befriend in a deeper way these past days of Lent.  Now that we enter the culmination of Jesus' effort to carry out the will of his Father, we have the opportunity again of walking the final days with our friend.  If he indeed is my friend, these days will have special significance.  We will be wanting: to walk the way with him; to take time to talk with him; to find the time to thank him for so much that he has given to each of us.  How much has he given to you?  How much has he given to your loved ones, your friends, your colleagues?  Do not these gifts from him strengthen your relationship with him as friend.  "My friend did all of this. My friend has reached out to so many.  Have I?

As we walk that final two weeks with our friend, consider the extraordinary blessings he has given to you.  It is your friend and my friend who reaches out to the poor when you cannot.  He is your friend who takes into his embrace all the men and women and children who may be forced into a marginalized part of society because you, or we, cannot deal with "them" whoever "they" may be: the immigrant, the AIDS victim, the unemployed, the imprisoned, the gay man or women, the brown skinned individuals, the black be they recent arrivals from Africa or distant relatives of those other black  persons in our communities.  Finally, it is your friend who reaches out to me and you when temptations clutter our minds, when sin is more satisfying than sacrifice, when selfishness and pride diminish our goodness, when honesty is sacrificed on the altar of pride.

Yes, this is your friend, my friend, whose extraordinary journey begins today.  Can you walk with him, thinking of him not as Jesus the victim, but rather as Jesus my friend who does not refuse to fulfill the Father's will;  Jesus my friend who walks to the moment of our salvation?

May you be of good cheer forever!
Seek to walk with Jesus during these last two weeks of Lent!


Friday, March 22, 2013

Is He Different? Is He God?

Today's Readings

In the gospel of John, chapter 10, verses 31-42 we encounter Jesus responding to those who question who he is.  It is a question that many ask today:  Who is Jesus?  What makes him so special?  Put yourself in a not to unusual situation.  Some colleagues join you for lunch.  In the course of a very common question these days, your are asked "What do you think of this new Pope?"  That question opens an interesting discussion that leads one of the non-believers in the group to ask you, "Joe, you are a Catholic, who do you believe this good fellow, Jesus, is?  Yeah, how would you answer that question because, as a non-believer, I have serious difficulties in believing who he is.  How do you know that this man is God as he says he is and you who are Christians believe he is?"

Perhaps you might wish that the first question had not been asked.  Nonetheless, the question is before all of us today.  Who is Jesus?  Do I believe he is the Son of God?  How do I answer these questions even in the quiet of my own mind?

Jesus tells the questioners in his situation that the miracles he has brought about are signs that he is the Son of God.  Soon we shall see the ultimate  proof of his Sonship when we walk our way through Holy Week, especially the Sacred Triduum, and, of course, when we celebrate Easter Sunday.

A further thought:  how do I demonstrate who I am as a Roman Catholic, as a Christian?  If Jesus used miracles what is there for me to do that would help others believe in the God I profess to believe?  Perhaps this is a more difficult question because it forces me to consider what it is that I do that would bring another person to know and love my friend, Jesus.

As a priest, I know you, dear reader, might think that it is much easier for me to do "things" that would bring others to know Jesus.  Yes, I preach and try during the week to pray and reflect on the words of Jesus that the Church presents to me and you in the Gospels each day.  I know, too, that there are times when I visit the sick, when I make a run to the hospital emergency call and read sacred scripture to a dying person or for the loved ones of a person who has just gone home to meet God.

The reality is simple:  it does not require a degree in theology or ordination to the priesthood to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.  Every baptized person can be an apostle.  Are you one that is looked upon as an apostle in your community?  Do you reach out to those in need?  Are you familiar with the life of Jesus that you discover reading the New Testament?

Back to the beginning?  What do you think about this new Pope?  Why is he so attractive to Catholics, former Catholics and non-Catholics?  Why?  I think the answer is this:  Pope Francis is not afraid to show the world that he is an apostle, a follower of Jesus Christ.  Let his life become for you and me a gift of the Holy Spirit bringing us closer to Jesus, our friend, and bringing Jesus to others who are seeking and inner peace.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Remember When?

Recall the wondrous deeds he has done, his wonders and words of judgment ...
To recall, as we know, is to remember.  These thoughts came to mind thinking about our experiences with remembering.  Of course, as I grow older, I find myself relying upon others to fill in the blanks of a conversation when a name or fact does not come to mind as swiftly as I would like.  Somehow my two grandmothers came to mind.  I was close to each one of them.  "Nanny" and "Gram" had very different styles but I cannot remember hearing them speak about difficulties in remembering.  But in our world today, remembering has become a challenge for many of us.  Where did I leave the keys?  My glasses, where are they?  Do you remember the name of that fellow who helped your grandfather repair the broken window?  And on and on.  Our minds become cluttered, cluttered, cluttered with so many facts.  Just think about all the codes and numbers you need if you work with a computer.  If they are not recorded in some secret place (if you can remember where that is), how much time do we lose just trying to find that information.
In today responsorial psalm, verses taken from Psalm 105, we are challenged to "recall the wondrous deed He has done."  Easter is drawing closer.  It is only a few days away.  The journey through the Lenten season may well have offered moments for each of us to remember the goodness of the Lord Jesus.  Surely, as noted a number of times in my postings and homilies, I have stressed the need to come to know Jesus as my friend, as my "buddy."  When that level of relationship has been achieved in quiet reflection and prayer, Lent becomes a rewarding experience.  In it during moments of quiet, we can recall the wondrous deeds that have occurred in our lives.  Those are treasures not to be overlooked.
During a dinner last evening with friends, I was asked about all that I had done during my life both as Jesuit novice, scholastic (seminarian) and priest as well as my years as a Diocesan priest.  Driving home after the dinner, I was moved by the awareness of God's presence in so many moments of my life.  It was for me a genuine recalling of wondrous moments and deeds that have come to me.  It was a recalling of countless moments of graces.
Take the time today, if you can, or at a later moment, to recall all that you have done in your lifetime.  Step back from what you recall and see the marvelous gifts of your friend, Jesus.  Then, as the days of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) come upon us, recall the acts of supreme sacrifice for you and for me endured by your friend, my buddy, Jesus.  Enjoy the moment!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Joseph

There is a small town in Provence, France, name Cotignac.  It would be honest to say that few American Catholics are aware of this historic town.  On two different hillsides in its history, there have been two apparitions.  In the first apparition Mary appeared to an ordinary worker.  She asked the man to approach the city consuls and clergy with the message:  "Build a church" on this spot.  Which was done.  It was, according to tradition, to be named Our Lady of Graces.  Note the plural!  Some years later another ordinary worker, Gaspard Ricard, a 22 year old shepherd was guiding his herd of sheep on a stifling hot day.  Exhausted, Gaspard laid on the ground.  He was in a part of Provence where there was not water: neither river nor stream.  Suddenly a tall and older man stood beside him.   He pointed to a large rock (bolder) and said:  "I am Joseph; lift it and you will drink."  The young man looked at the rock and then back to Joseph in disbelief.  Joseph repeated his instructions.  Gaspard did what Joseph asked him to do.  As soon as the rock was moved with no great difficulty, water began to flow from the earth ... and continues even until today.  Many miracles have been attributed to the waters of the stream.  Of course a sanctuary was constructed.  It was after this that Joseph was selected to be the patron for France.  It has become a tourist site as well as a place of prayer, especially for fathers.

Today, in Rome, Pope Francis spoke about St. Joseph.  Several times in his homily, delivered in Italian, the Bishop of Rome, as he seems to prefer as his title, spoke of Joseph's mission: custodire!  Joseph's vocation was to take care of Mary and the child she brought into the world.  Pope Francis urged all those present at his Installation Mass in St. Peter's Square, to recognize their vocations to be custodians of the world and the people of God in our lives.

When I was growing, as a young man, devotion to Joseph was not unknown.  Today, however, there is little attention to him and the extraordinary vocation he had.  Would that there would be a shepherd on a parched hillside in our country where Joseph could appear.  Perhaps more likely Joseph might opt to appear on a sports field or in a computer lab!  Nevertheless, if you Google Joseph and Cotignac, you will find what I found:  a source of "spiritual water" about the saint of this day and all that has occurred there in the small town.  Remember:  good things come in small packages!

Happy St. Joseph's Day!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

For The Greater Glory of God

What a surprise from the Cardinal Electors!  How many times was that heard on radio and tv accounts on an historic day in the Roman Catholic Church!

How many people were praying throughout the world for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to move the hearts and minds of 115 men seated in the Sistine Chapel on March 13, 2013?  No one will ever know. But, for sure, it seems that there was one power at work among the electors:  the Holy Spirit.

Today, I invite you to join with me in prayers of thanksgiving to God for the gift given to us.  Let us pray, too, that Francis I will allow the Spirit to work through his mind and heart in the years that God will grant him to the Church as Roman Pontiff.

Religious, priest, teacher, rector of a Jesuit community, Master of Novices, Provincial, pastor, Bishop, Cardinal, Pope:  he was where God wanted him to be throughout his life AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM!!!  At last a humble Jesuit with his hand, head and heart on the tiller of the Barque of St. Peter!  Deo Gratias.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ingratitude Overcome By Friendship

Throughout this Lenten season, I have endeavored to stir up recognition of the many times we have scripture verses that reveal Jesus to us as "friend."  I don't mean friend as we might call out to a recent encounter.  Rather I speak about friend as the person you believe to be someone who would most likely endure the sacrifice of his/her life on your behalf.  There are so many stories in the NT that demonstrate Jesus' willingness to share his true and deep friendship with each of us.

Today's gospel story portrays a person who seems to be something of a failure.  Notice he does not ask Jesus to help him, to cure his illness.  Jesus has to ask the crippled man if he wants Jesus to cure him.  Furthermore, rather than accept Jesus' obvious invite to healing, the man prefers to offer a complaint:  "Can't you see no one cares for me to help me get to the pool of water."  But Jesus doesn't give up.  Instead of ignoring completely, he tells the man to get up and walk.  Later this same man sees Jesus but speaks not one word of gratitude.  Jesus must be on the verge of a  slow burn.  He says to the man, "Look, you are well; do not sin anymore."  Then the cured man goes to tell the authorities that Jesus had "worked" a miracle on his behalf.  He would have known this would lead to criticism of Jesus for "working" on the Sabbath.

Surely Jesus knew what this ungrateful man would say or do.  Is it any wonder this man laid poolside for 38 years without help?  Nonetheless the true friend who seems to be rebuffed by this ill man, does not consider changing plans.  He shows his true friendship.

It is good for us to consider again the value of Jesus' friendship:  it is without any restrictions save one -- sine no more!  Have you ever ignored Jesus' effort to assure you of his friendship?  This is the friend who would be willing to die for you!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Another Jesus My Friend Account

Uggh!!!  Give me back my time.  Daylight savings time so early is so painful!!!!

Perhaps the journey through Lent may feel onerous at this time especially when we are getting up in the darkness of night once again.  Three weeks of concerted efforts at sacrifice are not easy for many. Yet again we do have a gospel story that reminds us that Jesus is indeed our friend, my friend, your friend.

Yesterday evening, while out to dinner, my hosts reminded me how blessed we were with the gospel story reminder that our God is such a caring God, such a loving God regardless of our past sinfulness.  Imagine if you were the government official who child was seriously, seriously ill.  Surely you would ask Jesus for help because you would have known his reputation, the good that he had brought about in the lives of many.  Surely the official's heart must have ached terribly.  But Jesus was well aware of both the parents as well as the young son.  This is a reminder to us once again:  I am there for you.  I am who is I am, God's only Son who comes to share with us the love of God the Father for each of us. The official trusted Jesus.  He trusted with all of his heart that Jesus would help his son. 

Today take time to recall moments in your life when you called upon Jesus, when you trusted he would come to your side, to assist, to ease a burden.  Think back, too, to those moments which just didn't go as you wanted or needed.  Here's a question:  did you turn to Jesus in those moments?  Did you trust that he would help you through the difficulties?

As you and I consider the healing of the young man let us never forget that Jesus is always there for us just as he was for the boy's dad.  Remember, Jesus is our friend.  Treat him as you would treat your closest, dearest friend.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who is the Real Prodigal in the Story?

As I write, I am thinking this:  is there any other parable that Jesus has given us that is more famous that the Parable of the Prodigal son?

I hope to have a few young men between the ages of 18 and 24 in church for this gospel.  They will receive my invite to stand for a moment.  I will ask them these questions:  Do you see any part of the younger man in yourselves?  This young men felt that he knew the way of the world.  Are you ambitious?  Are you impetuous?  Are you naive?  Do you feel there is a place somewhere out there in this world that is just waiting for you and all your brilliance?  If you don't feel that you are possessed by these same feelings, then something is amiss.  To search and to long for something is a characteristic of youthfulness around the world.   How painful it must be to be possessed by the same feelings but situated in a third world country where getting up and out is so very difficult.  Do you remember the Wizard of Oz movie?  That is what youthful Dorothy wants to experience as she sings out "Somewhere over the rainbow."  And we know that most who are taken by such desires may find themselves back at home all too soon!  You will return home most likely beaten up a little but a person who has earned a degree from the school of hard knocks!

There is a question that theologians have asked so often.  It is this:  "Who is it that Jesus is addressing using this parable?  Is it the younger son?  If you see Rembrandt's painting, The Return of the Prodigal, you might notice others in the painting.  Where Jesus was, he was speaking to sinners who were coming to him for help.  There were also others who had come to hear Jesus speak.  Some who wanted to trip him up, to find him guilty of improper preaching; also some of the local religious leaders.

Some commentators see that it is "the wider audience" to whom Jesus is speaking.  But first we have to realize that Jesus is including this parable along with two others that were related:  a lost coin, the lost sheep.  So sheep, coin and son.  All were lost in one way or another.  Why does Jesus use these three parables together?  What is there that these three share?  Oh, by the way, I have told the young people to sit down by this time!!!  I did not forget them.

Again what, then is the purpose of these parables?  We should see the three parables as expressions of human pain when something or someone is lost.  In the gospel today, the prodigal son experience, he wants you and me to see that the heart of the father had been broken by the lost son.  The father probably knew down deep in his heart that his younger son would be so much more enjoyable to have around the house than the older brother who showed his true colors when he heard the noise coming from the party the father had for his son who had been found.  The father is so grateful that the younger man had come home and all the household is jubilant.  That older brother must have been a genuine pain for the rest of the people who worked for the father.

This parable provides each of us with the extraordinary opportunity to sit down with Jesus and let him tell us about the Father's love for us and others who have wandered away but who have returned.  Let's not consider talking about how grateful we might be that God has welcomed us back into his house if we have let sin separate us from him.  Let's think about how we might be like the older son.  Are there any in our family, our communities, with whom we need to bring words of reconciliation?  Are there moments when me might react like those who might have held self-righteous judgment against the returned son?

And what ever happened to the older brother?  Jesus is not all that clear.  Perhaps he wanted each of us to answer that question.  He would know if we keep someone at arms length, refusing to accept that person nor not.  How would you react to circumstances applicable in our time?  Like the immigration issue?  Dealing with Tea Party members of Congress?  Members of the parish who really think and speak differently than you do?  Would your attitudes or words prevent some from coming back into the Church?  How would you accept a black man from Ghana, for example, as the leader of your Church? 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Meeting the Sacred

Tuesday, March 7
(Late Entry Due to Travel)

Perhaps I am blessed this morning because I am without a connection to the Internet as I prepare a reflection for both of us. What can I do? I can return to a book that I am reading: Seeking the Sacred, the inspiring work of Stephanie Dowrick. As I join with you in our Lenten journey, isn't our prayer time nothing less than an attempt to know the sacred?The author notes well that such a venture cannot be by another person for me. Each of us must set aside the time to allow ourselves such a discovery. No one can find the sacred for someone else. I can look at nature in its splendor. I can read of a poet's dealing with the muses. I can read of one person's encounter with God. All of these moments can be inspiring for me. It is only me alone who can find the sacred for myself. God is for me what He wants for me alone. It cannot be otherwise: He made me the unique individual that I am.During this season of Lent, as I seek to better understand Jesus as "friend," I am drawn closer to sacred first and foremost by nurturing reverence. Reverence is the powerful force that opens for me the ability to place myself in the presence of my God in all His wonder. It is the search for the sacred that I discover who I am and, by the way, who you are and who we are. It is his insight of Dowrick that affirms the power of reverence to bring us to the sacred.So, let us use these days of finding Jesus as friend to help us better understand ourselves and those others who share so much of our lives. In doing this surely we nurture reverence that leads us to the sacred.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Do You Believe?

Today the first reading speaks so strongly about who we can become when we truly place our trust in God. SUrely we live in a very trying world at this time in our national history. Certainly we live in challenging days in our Church. Neither, it seems, is able to offer us the gift of hope that we had placed in these institutions for centuries. Who believes that our national government is working in our favor? Seemingly only a few Republicans who are convinced they can right the course of our government. Who believes that the division between Kingdom and Communion Catholics can be resolved even with the upcoming election of a new Roman Pontiff? Read and reread the words in the first reading. Moses was confronted with the pain and worry of his people. He speaks out with words that he hopes will strengthen their hope. Catch this line from deep into this reading: "For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God is to us WHENEVER (bold letters mine) we call upon him? Think about this statement of hope, this reminder of God's care for each one of us. If I truly have a strong awareness that God is right with me whenever I need him, I would be better able to confront the challenges that confront me throughout the course of any day. Whenever the road is rocky, what do think might happen if you honestly turned to Jesus and said, "Okay, my friend, here I am. Help me through this situation, this worry, this pain, this disappointment, these scary days. I trust you will help me." What do you think will happen? This is the challenge for you today, as here in the nation's capital city we are beginning to see our lawns covered with snow.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mistakes Forgiven

Seven times seven:  the number of times I should forgive someone who has offended me ... if necessary.  So, Jesus is teaching this to everyone.  We should rejoice because there are times, when we are offended, hurt or insulted, that our brother or sister should come to us with words of forgiveness.

It is that simple.  When we offend, God expects that we should take the time and the willingness to approach the person we have offended and bring to him/her words of apology, seeking forgiveness.  Our sister or brother, likewise, who come to us with words seeking forgiveness should we have been offended by him/her.

We read the story of the servant who was forgiven by the master but who was unable to extend the same kind of forgiveness to a fellow servant who owed the servant a debt.  We can think of moments when we encounter a situation like that in the gospel.  What do we do about it?

What do you do?  You take your problem to your friend, Jesus, and talk it over with him.  "Jesus, you know the circumstance that has me weighed down.  What am I to say to my colleague who was so brutal toward me with his/her language and accusation?"  If we take the time to stop talking to Jesus and about the situation, if we take the time to simply stop talking to Jesus and open our ears, he will speak with a reply.  But we have to stop reminding Jesus about the incident.  You know, I do believe he knows all the ins and outs about the matter.  Let him whisper into your heart and ears.  He will bring to you a few words or thoughts of forgiveness and consolation.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Friend to the Marginalized

So, if we are trying to develop a genuine friendship with Jesus, what can we gather from the gospel being read at our Masses today:  Luke 4:24-30?

Recall that the event described by Luke occurred during the early days of Jesus public ministry.  He returned to his "local parish," the temple where he was accustomed to worship as a youngster and a young man.  After reading from the Torah, Jesus preached what we would call a homily.  He was to the point.  He wanted his home town friends and others to know that he would be a preacher who spoke to the point.  He realized and wanted those in the temple to realize that a prophet is called upon by God to speak boldly.  He would not "soften" the will of his Father with a watered-down interpretation of the Torah.

The people of Nazareth called upon him to heal some of his own just as he had done elsewhere.  Not stepping back from the call, he spoke out clearly.  Recalling Old Testament events, the healings brought about by two OT prophets, Elijah and Elisha, for some people who were not of the Jewish practice.  He reminded the Nazareth temple congregation that these Elijah was sent to the widow in Zarephath and Elisha cleansed a Syrian leper, Naaman.  His words angered the people who tried to do Jesus in but "he passed through the midst of them and went away" (Lk 4:30).

In trying to see what kind of friend Jesus is as we see him in this incident, he speaks of a value that he sees in some people who just are not a part of the Jewish community.  Outsiders.  Immigrants?  This little homily from Jesus should be a reminder to those who may feel that the Church does not care for them if they are not "within the box" of the community's thinking or belief.  In our times this might indeed be the high school student who is facing a college or employment future at this time of the year, immigrant, a person of color, a person of different sexual preference, those people who are challenged by mental diseases, those physically challenged and so forth.  Jesus is not a preacher who spoke only for in the upper classes of society.  Jesus is a friend to all of us, especially to those who are "different."

A question for a discussion with Jesus would be this:  "Jesus, would you help me to discover if there is any preferential treatment of some to the exclusion of others because of them being different?"  Let these words of St. Luke be a constant reminder to us that we should also seek to affirm those whom prejudice and hatred reject.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

3rd Sunday of Lent

Let's look at the gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent.  The text is Luke 130;1-9.  As mentioned earlier, this blogger has but one mission for this season of Lent:  to discover in the gospel of the day Jesus' words or actions that speak to us as one friend speaking to a another.

Again, let this message move us forward.  if confession is necessary "get it over with as soon as possible" so that your heart and mind are free to be at peace with Jesus.  Furthermore, that freedom will help you appreciate even more your relationship with Jesus Christ.

In today's gospel Jesus is clear:  repent, get it done!  Do not bring destruction to your soul.  To illustrate his point he uses the example of the man who planted a fig tree in his orchard. When he ought to get its fruit, there was none.  Since that tree was not producing its fruit, the owner of the property told the caretaker to "cut it down."  Notice what this master says next:  "Why should it exhaust the soil?"  Jesus is never one to overlook what is good and how can be profitably used.  However, the caretaker asked for an extension of time to care for the damaged tree time.  Surely that caretaker.

So, Jesus your friend, my friend, is telling us about repentance and that it is the key to the continued septuagentile world.  Then Jesus my friend does not hesitate to share the fluid with.  He knows what will expects of us.  This is not all that happen.  He knows what will happen if we fail if make it down.  How blessest are we who have a Savior who tells all before we die.